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7 Natural Anti-Depressants That Might Surprise You

written by Skye Sherman - Jun 7, 2021

7 Natural Anti-Depressants That Might Surprise You

Feeling depressed, down, or dismayed is an exhausting way to live. Those who struggle with depression or have experienced it in the past know just how difficult it can be to go through life while depressed.

In some cases, medication may be necessary to help a person get free from their depression. A medical professional can make these judgment calls and prescribe antidepressants as necessary. For some people, seeking out alternatives to antidepressants may not be medically recommended. Some cases of depression result from brain chemicals that are off balance, which is why antidepressant drugs are required to counteract and balance these levels.

However, did you know there are natural ways to boost your spirits as well? Clinical depression may require meds, but that doesn’t mean you can’t supplement your efforts with some natural remedies as well.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some natural antidepressants. These can sometimes be used instead of or in conjunction with antidepressant drugs, depending on the advice of a healthcare provider. If you are diagnosed with depression, you should consult with your doctor before making any changes or additions to your health routine.

Read on for some natural antidepressants and alternatives to antidepressants that may help you.

1. Play in the dirt and forest bathing: soil microbes mimic the effects of antidepressant drugs

Many people see dirt as a bad thing. After all, who wants to be dirty or have dirt in their house? However, dirt in the right places can be a very good thing. In fact, did you know that dirt can actually make you happy? Believe it or not, there is a natural antidepressant found in soil.

An article in Gardening Know How explains, “Prozac may not be the only way to get rid of your serious blues. Soil microbes have been found to have similar effects on the brain and are without side effects and chemical dependency potential. … Mycobacterium vaccae is the substance under study and has indeed been found to mirror the effect on neurons that drugs like Prozac provide. The bacterium is found in soil and may stimulate serotonin production, which makes you relaxed and happier. Studies were conducted on cancer patients and they reported a better quality of life and less stress.”

Getting exposed to dirt goes hand in hand with forest bathing, which can also include exploring nature and looking for wildlife. Have you ever heard of forest bathing? It’s a Japanese concept and it involves spending time in nature, such as a forest or other rich natural place. Simply breathing the fresh air and enjoying the slow pace of nature can work wonders for your mood.

Play in the dirt to get exposed to some soil microbes and see what it does for your mental health!

2. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Playing in the dirt is a simple solution, but there are some high-tech depression treatments showing promise, too.

According to KSL, one such high-tech solution with encouraging results is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation” “During a TMS session, magnetic coils are used to stimulate the growth of new neural pathways in the brain, specifically in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. … after a full treatment (36 sessions), many people are completely relieved of their mental illness symptoms.”

This new treatment requires further study, but the results so far in some patients are very promising, and it’s likely that this will continue as the research develops.

3. Playing with pets: puppies, cats, and even horse therapy

Did you know that spending time with animals can act as a natural antidepressant? Lots of people feel better after snuggling up to a dog or cat; people with pets can attest to the power of animals to help them feel safe, loved, and secure.

Caring for a pet can help give you added purpose outside of yourself, providing you happiness, companionship, and a reason to get up out of bed even when you don’t feel like it. Having a dog that requires regular walks makes sure you get outside and get a little exercise even when you’re not in the mood. Having an animal to hug can help you feel less isolated and even needed, which can help to alleviate some feelings of depression.

Horses are another powerful natural remedy for depression. Have you ever heard of horse therapy for depression? Also known as equine therapy, it can be a big help to children, teens, adults, and those with mental disorders or developmental disorders.

According to VeryWellMind, “Equine-assisted psychotherapy incorporates horses into the therapeutic process. People engage in activities such as grooming, feeding, and leading a horse while being supervised by a mental health professional. Goals of this form of therapy include helping people develop skills such as emotional regulation, self-confidence, and responsibility. … Offering a much different experience than traditional talk therapy, EAP brings people outdoors and offers an opportunity to use all senses while learning and processing through emotional challenges.”

If that sounds like something you would benefit from, you should look into options for equine therapy in your area. It may be just the activity you need to feel restored.

4. Psilocybin therapy

While the use of “magic mushrooms” remains controversial in most circles, these psychedelic plants show promising potential, especially when it comes to treating depression. Depression treatments that incorporate psychedelic substances are showing major results and demanding further study.

An article in WebMD explains, “The psychedelic drug psilocybin – found in ‘magic mushrooms’ – performed just as well as a widely used antidepressant in easing the symptoms of major depression, and outperformed the common prescription medication on a range of secondary measures, results of a small-scale phase II study show. In a 6-week trial that included 59 patients with moderate-to-severe depression, there was no significant difference between the impact of high-dose psilocybin and that of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) escitalopram, sold under the brand name Lexapro. Patients in the group that received psilocybin did show a much more rapid improvement in the main measure of depression than those taking escitalopram.”

This is big news. If a natural material like psilocybin could be just as effective as antidepressant drugs but without many of the harmful side effects, those with depression could soon have better options available to them for treatment.

5. Lavender

Many of us love the relaxing scent of lavender, especially around bedtime. As it turns out, that’s for good reason. Did you know that lavender has been shown to provide better sleep and mood control?

According to Medical News Today, “As many people with depression also experience anxiety and sleep issues, lavender could help them sleep without the side effects of sleeping pills. According to a 2012 systematic review, inhaling lavender aromas before sleeping did help people get to sleep. However, the studies were small, and most had methodological issues, so researchers need to do more studies to support the findings. However, a 2015 randomized controlled trial does provide more evidence that lavender may help with sleep. In that study, two groups practiced healthy sleep hygiene, with one group wearing a lavender aromatherapy patch. Both groups were sleeping better, but the results were stronger in the lavender group.”

If you have trouble sleeping, surround yourself with lavender when you’re ready to hit the hay and you may find that sleep comes easier. Being able to get a full and restful night of sleep can help dramatically in some cases of anxiety, depression, or stress.

6. Foods and herbs that are natural antidepressants

You are what you eat. In that case, you should be eating well if you want to feel well! But did you know that certain foods and herbs have natural antidepressant properties? That’s right! If you want to give your body and mood a natural lift, you should look into the foods that can work as natural remedies as an antidepressant.

Foods such as berries, cherries, avocado, salmon, tea, and even chocolate all possess antidepressant qualities. Consume these on a regular basis to make sure your body is getting a healthy regular boost of feel-good chemicals! You should also make sure to cut out sugar, refined carbs, and other food items that lead to worse moods. Make sure you’re not skipping meals and that you’re getting a balanced intake of vitamins, minerals, and more. This will help you feel less irritable and tired.

Another food that can do you some good is ginkgo biloba. According to MSN, “If you’re looking to take the natural approach to treating mild depression, you may want to give ginkgo biloba supplements a try. This herb increases blood flow to the brain, which can boost energy and help improve concentration. Research hasn’t yet linked this herb directly with mood, but one study found it improved attention and memory—common problems experienced with depression—in a week. In another study, the herb improved some of the sexual side effects some prescription antidepressants can cause.”

You should also boost your intake of B vitamins if you want a natural antidepressant. MSN reports that “The B vitamins folate and B12 help the brain convert amino acids into mood-boosting brain chemicals such as serotonin. People older than age 60, whose bodies may poorly absorb these vitamins, and vegetarians, who may not get enough B vitamins through their diets, may benefit most from supplements.” In this case, adding B vitamins to your routine could be especially good for those in the older age categories.

Zinc is another supplement that can boost feelings of happiness. “Low zinc levels may trigger a drop in immunity that affects your mood,” says MSN. “In one (very small) study of 14 depressed people, those who took a zinc supplement in addition to a prescription antidepressant were significantly less depressed after six weeks than those taking only the antidepressant.”

Medical News Today also adds fatty fish to the list of foods that can act as natural antidepressants. That’s because certain types of fish contain lots of omega-3 fatty acids, which are very good for your brain health. Good examples of omega-3-rich fish are tuna, albacore, and salmon.

The article explains it this way: “According to a 2009 analysisTrusted Source of 20 clinical trials, large doses of omega-3 fatty acids may improve mood and treat depression. More findings from a 2015 report show that omega-3s may help with depression in both adults and children. Researchers do not know how or why omega-3s work. They may reduce inflammation or reduce the effects of the stress-related hormone cortisol.”

Of course, for those who don’t like fish, you can always take fish oil supplements or other types of supplements to boost their omega-3 levels.

It’s important to note that at high doses, high levels of omega-3s or fish oil supplements can lead to a fishy aftertaste or an upset stomach and according to one clinical trial, they may also thin the blood, so people with clotting disorders or those who take blood thinners need to discuss with their doctor about how much omega-3 they consume and what is a safe amount for them.

7. Sunlight, music, socializing, and spending time with children

Sometimes in life, the little things really are the big things. Seek out experiences and people that make you happy, because these things may be doing even more good for you than you realize. Sunshine, music, being outdoors, leading an active social life, and spending time with children and their silliness: all these things can help to naturally boost your mood and lift your spirits.

Spending time in the sun can be especially important for those who reside in places that often go extended periods with limited sunshine. Safe levels of sun exposure can work wonders for depression, especially in cases of seasonal affective disorder.

According to Nova Recovery Center, “Getting some sun outside can open up opportunities for physical exercise, social activities, and provide physical benefits that will aid in recovery … Sunlight naturally increases serotonin levels in the body, serving as an instant mood-booster. Even if you don’t have time to get outside, simply opening up the windows or peeling back the curtains can increase the natural light in your home or workspace.”

Seek out happy times in the bright sunshine and feel the magical effects on your mood. The earth is full of natural remedies to depression, if only you seek them out!



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